With Walker gone, Sanheim looks to pick up some slack

Travis Sanheim

      PHILADELPHIA – With defenseman Sean Walker off to Colorado, the Flyers most likely need a little more offensive production from the rest of their backline corps.

      Problem is, half that crew remains on the injured list.

      So with the return of Nick Seeler, Rasmus Ristolainen and Jamie Drysdale not happening anytime soon, that puts a little more burden on veterans such as Travis Sanheim.

      Sanheim got nicked up a bit in Saturday night’s game at Tampa when his knee was hit in a collision with Luke Glendening and he was wearing a brace for Tuesday morning’s skate at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J.

      “I feel good, it was a scary incident,” he said. As for the length of time he will have to wear a brace, he added: “I’m not sure, we’ll see what happens.”

      The defenseman acknowledged that all the blueline corps will have to pitch in to cover the absence of Walker.

      In Saturday night’s game, the Flyers only had five defensemen because Egor Zamula was a late scratch due to illness. Sanheim logged a whopping 28 minutes and 53 seconds of ice time.

      “Obviously, it (the absence of Walker) is more minutes that someone is going to have to take over,” said Sanheim, who averages 23:47 this season. “I thought for the Florida game (a 2-1 win last Thursday), the young guys (Ronnie Attard, Adam Ginning) came in and did a great job.

      “Tampa was a team effort, no one really showed up. We have to bounce back tonight. Those are big minutes that Sean obviously played. We’re going to need guys to step up. I’m a part of that. I have to lead by example, play the right way and I’m looking to do that.”

      Coach John Tortorella, who’s suspended for both the San Jose game on Tuesday night and another home match with Toronto on Thursday night, is confident his remaining defensemen can get the job done. The Flyers made a trade with Buffalo for veteran Erik Johnson and that will help the cause.

      Sanheim entered Tuesday night’s game as the leading scorer on the backline with eight goals/38 points. His regular partner, Cam York, leads defensemen with nine goals.

      “We’re just going to play,” the coach said. “We’re not going to change or put an emphasis on two guys. The locker room is in tune to these types of things all year long as far as what’s going on with our team. They know what they have to do.

      “If they feel like they have to be wild as far as getting up the ice, they have to play their game, probably end up having more minutes. And the other guys have to kick in. There’s nothing special, we’re just going to try to be the best we can be.”

      Teams don’t like to use injuries as an excuse for poor play and the Flyers are no exception. That’s why the forwards have to pitch in and make defensive situations a five-player effort.

      “When we’re banged up as much in the back end as we are, the team defense comes into play,” Tortorella confirmed. “Everybody needs to kick in there to solidify us a little bit with some experience back there.

      “But this time of year we’re trying to work on that anyway because it’s a big time of the year as far as the grind and the defensive part of the game.”

      To Tortorella’s way of thinking, it’s all about the forwards knowing when to backcheck and recognize when their defensive teammates require assistance.

      “It’s having the forwards be aware of our injuries, of our inexperience on our back end,” the coach said. “And just the awareness of situational play in games when we’re losing ourselves a little bit. It’s ‘let’s get back, protect around our net.’

      “I believe everything happens for a reason. With all the injuries we’ve had, it’s forcing us to concentrate on that a little bit more. I think it’s the time of the year to do that anyway. So this kind of doubles it up for us as far as making sure we’re protecting the middle of the ice, playing well in front of our goaltender and our offense comes off of that.”

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About Wayne Fish 2426 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.